How does Facebook's new Reactions feature play into the constantly-evolving landscape of social media marketing?
When Facebook announced its new “Reactions” feature back in October, users began anticipating a more unique and interactive social media experience. Instead of being chained to one uniform reaction to their friends’ posts, users finally had the variety they had been asking for. In fact, users had been demanding a "dislike" button from Facebook for about 7 years.
For users, Reactions means more variety. It means an opportunity to respond uniquely and personally to a friend, co-worker or family member. It means more accuracy in expressing ourselves. And for the most part, Facebook says its users were in the driver's seat when it came to choosing which reactions would be included in the new feature.
But what are the potential benefits and drawbacks from this new feature? What do they mean for marketers in social media?
The Possibility of Richer Data
When it comes to Facebook reactions, the biggest potential boon is richer, more complex data.
“This is a major change to the way we analyze [brands’] audiences and our work,” says Jason Stein, the CEO of social media agency, Laundry Service, in a recent article for Wired. “It really overhauls how you handle your Facebook channel.”
Facebook’s reach is staggering---they report over 1 billion daily active users, the majority of which gain access to the site on a mobile device. With this amount of potential reach, it’s no wonder that many marketers are ecstatic about the new feature. Instead of measuring a campaign on likes, which has long been considered a semi-meaningless metric, marketers and brands can rely on a slew of other reactions to give them insight into how their audience is receiving and responding to their posts.
Of course, it’s impossible to say, this soon after the feature’s launch, exactly what that richer data might look like and how it might influence our behavior on social media.
It could mean re-targeting a Facebook ad to exclude followers who initially responded with the “Angry” or “Sad” reaction. It could mean targeting a specific ad to followers who responded with the “Love” reaction to a similar post. It could mean throwing out a campaign that earns primarily negative reactions and no click-through from users. It could mean trying to re-create a campaign that receives primarily “Sad” reactions but also receives a stellar click-through rate. And on, and on, and on.
The possibilities, at least for now, seem limitless.
More Segmentation from Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm
Facebook has reiterated that, as of right now, pressing one of the Reaction buttons will register the same as if you had simply pressed “Like.”
But it won’t stay like that forever.
According to a post on Facebook Newsroom, the plan is to eventually weight users’ particular reactions to influence the content they see on their newsfeed.
“Over time, we hope to learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see,” the post read.
So what does that mean for marketers?
Right now, only conjecture and theories exist. Many marketers feel hopeful that a Reactions-influenced algorithm will deliver their content more effectively to those who want to see it and are thus more likely to engage with it.
Others feel trepidation about the change: is the Reactions feature indicative of actual engagement? Or is it just another vanity metric that offers little insight into who actually cares about your content?
At this stage in the game, there isn’t enough data to say.
The (Inevitable) Potential Concerns
As with any major new feature on a major social media platform, there are drawbacks and concerns.
Reactions is no different. Many critics have come out of the woodwork to express ire over Facebook’s supposed “hidden agenda” and disappointment that the Social Network didn’t introduce the “Dislike” button that users have been requesting for nearly a decade.
One of the loudest criticisms? That the new feature is still restricting.
Amanda Hess, writing for Slate, was particularly critical of Reactions’ main utility: letting users craft distinguished, meaningful responses to a piece of content.
Hess writes, “If it’s not clear why users would choose a yay reaction over a love reaction, then the data is meaningless.”
It is a distinct possibility that the new collected data will not yield anything like a road map to better targeting or more engagement for your brand’s posts. Some users have expressed a preference for the “Like” button on its own, stating that giving a post a thumbs up doesn’t necessarily mean you “like” the content; a thumbs up, after all, means different things in different cultures. For many users, a thumbs up was a great way to express general acknowledgement of a post or its writer.
As the Facebook Reactions feature continues to influence and change the way we use the social media platform, one thing is certain: there will continue to be plenty to talk about.